I went a bit ballistic on Facebook recently after I started seeing people posting and re-posting and commenting approvingly on a story that appeared in many media outlets — including the NY Times, PBS, and most graphically (and unsurprisingly) the NY Daily News.
As a level-headed Canadian friend of mine pointed out, the actual body of the PBS News Hour story I referenced on Facebook included a good bit of information about the program, the funding, how it ran, who it served, and left the interpretation up to the reader.
So maybe my gripe is about the headline writers who play on biases and the culture of fear to drum up viewers and readers.
ThinkProgress’s headline clearly suggests an intentional link between the NRA’s donation and training the Parkland shooter. Of course, sites like ThinkProgress make no bones about the fact that they practice advocacy journalism, but its sad when all media come to look the same.
Here are my two main problems with this storyline:
(1) If people have a problem with the NRA donating to JROTC programs because they are training people to become “better at killing through refining marksmanship” (as a friend put it), then they have a lot of problems because there’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. There are the military and law enforcement, of course, notorious for their gun training. Spree killer Christopher Dorner, for example, was taught to shoot by the US Navy Reserve and LAPD.
People pointing fingers at these youth shooting programs also need to help explain why more of these trained killers aren’t doing what they’ve been trained to do. I have not analyzed the training backgrounds of many mass killers, but I know in terms of everyday homicide most of those killers have nothing to do with the NRA or other formal gun training outlets.
I know people outside gun culture often have no idea that high schools even have rifle teams, but instead of imagining a mass shooter when you hear “rifle team,” imagine something like this: The NCAA Rifle Championships.
(2) The issue of training also becomes a bit of a Catch-22. People complain about how the NRA has departed from its original purpose as a marksmanship organization, but when it performs that original role, it gets dinged too.
Even more, many people call for MANDATORY TRAINING as part of the requirements for gun ownership or concealed carry, but if someone who receives that training ends up committing a criminal homicide, will we blame the mandatory training for making them more lethal?
The reality is that gun training makes most people safer with guns most of the time. But once this reality gets pulled into the world of gun politics, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.